4 Reasons Songwriters Quit

Songwriters don’t have it easy. We’re writing songs during the most competitive time in music industry history. If you’re a professional songwriter, income sources that used to be reliable, like licensing, have become much less so in recent years. And with today’s playlist-centric listening culture, it’s a feast or famine situation for many professional songwriters. But even if you’re not writing songs for your main source of income, there are plenty of challenges you will likely face as a songwriter. If you love making music and want to do it seriously for the rest of your life, it’s helpful to know why so many songwriters call it quits.

Discouragement

Songwriting can be a thankless endeavor for lots of creators at different points in their careers. Maybe you’re just starting out and are struggling to write something that finds an audience. Or maybe you were a part of something big a few years ago and haven’t been able to match that sort of success ever since. Discouragement is one of the biggest reasons songwriters give up making music. Disappointment and rejection are inevitable in music whether you write songs and perform them with a band or create music for other artists. The trick is knowing this fact and accepting it. For so many of us, the biggest reward we get in writing music is the fact that it gives us joy, purpose, and understanding. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to make songwriting your career, but if this is your goal you need to know how tough it is to do. If you prioritize the personal enjoyment of songwriting above everything else, you’ll have an inner firewall against disappointment.

Boredom

Many music-makers give up writing songs because they feel creatively unchallenged. This can happen when a songwriter cranks out the same sort of songs over and over again, or when a writer feels a general lack of interest in the music they make. Boredom is a problem that almost always afflicts experienced songwriters. After years of making music, it’s natural to feel emotionally and creatively disengaged from the writing process sometimes. But rather than quit, so many writers will be better off by taking breaks and learning how to add new energy and ideas to their writing process. Listen to new music. Learn a new instrument. Collaborate with someone with a totally different approach to music than you. If you’re bored writing music, it’s because you’re too comfortable. By shaking things up and adding newness to your process songwriting will continue to be engaging and interesting for you.

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Lack of financial support

It takes time and money to make music. From the cost of instruments and recording equipment to the time it takes to write songs that you could’ve spent earning money in more reliable ways, songwriting requires some big investments. You might love to make music and want to do it for the rest of your life, but it can be very difficult to pursue if it’s not earning you money. For many writers, this gets better over time when specific songs start to gain traction and earn money and attention. It’s not easy to do, but the answer here is to make the best music you can as often as you can by fitting songwriting into your daily life in ways that are consistent and realistic. How many hours each week can you devote to writing? Maybe it’s only three or four. If so, make the most you can out of those hours, and make sure you don’t skip a week. Instead of giving up, try fitting music creation into your life in ways that are sustainable.

External daily life factors

Non-musical careers, kids, and romantic partners are all examples of things that can stand in the way of you and your music. The catch is that the best music is about humanity and the complex lives we live. This means that a balance has to be struck between your musical and non-musical life. If you don’t do this, you’ll either quit writing songs or have nothing meaningful to write songs about. For many of us, the trick is to create time during each week that’s completely devoted to songwriting, recording, and music production while showing up fully for the other areas of life you feel passionate about in the rest of your time. Living a deep and meaningful life outside of music while carrying out space to write songs is the recipe for finding long-term fulfillment and balance in your songwriting career.

Songwriting can be grueling, heartbreaking, thankless, and exhausting. But if this is your career, or even if it’s something that gives you purpose and excitement, you’ll need to find the motivation to press ahead when things get tough.

Patrick McGuire is a writer, musician, and human man. He lives nowhere in particular, creates music under the name Straight White Teeth, and has a great affinity for dogs and putting his hands in his pockets.

Dave4 Reasons Songwriters Quit

17 comments

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  • Ildar - September 24, 2021 reply

    I agree completely! Thanks!

  • Steve Wagner - September 29, 2021 reply

    Best thing I’ve read by you, Patrick. Thank you.

    Jason - September 29, 2021 reply

    This is my whole position in one column.
    Great job finding a point of view a lot people relate to. Well said my guy

  • Tasso Webb - September 29, 2021 reply

    Great advice, thanks….

  • Steve Forshaw - September 30, 2021 reply

    In short – if you really love songwriting ( and your mate inspiration comes a calling regularly) you’ll keep it up .
    I think that quality songwriting that will stand the test of time is now completely underated and undiscovered by both the music business and the public in general.
    Part of this is there are too many people calling themselves songwriters( look at soundcloud , reverbnation etc. Which are shamelessly manipulated by thousands of talentless morons who think they are Paul Mcartney)
    The kids are playing on line games and older people will keep playing Sinatra because this plethora of longrass rubbish is hiding the gems that are no doubt out there.
    Bring back quality control!

  • Raymond Mark Byabazaire - September 30, 2021 reply

    Thank you, Patrick. I thought I was the only one in this dilemma, but you have widened my view…:-)

  • LOUIE DE LA MOUR - September 30, 2021 reply

    having no talent can be a discouragement. unfortunately, it rarely stops most songwriters.

  • Donna Lorrancie WALTON - September 30, 2021 reply

    I have an affinity for dogs too thank you for sharing information that is so important to the music business I sometimes keep your emails just so I can read it over and over again when I become stagnant and bored my approach to writing is much different than your average artist would do because I have no instruments just my voice so I harmonize so my listeners hear the music whether it’s good or bad I put it out there I usually never write anything down probably not the best approach you have make the best of what you have and do what’s right for you and yes it’s very difficult to write without instruments but time doesn’t sit still for anyone

  • Nik S. - September 30, 2021 reply

    I think this is a great article topic.

    I also think that the time passes and comes with time as an artists dream.

  • Russ Joiner - September 30, 2021 reply

    One other reason, that sort of blends in with the other 4, is the overall state of the music industry. Some blame Napster, but technology would have delivered the streaming blow sooner or later. Younger generations, long known to be the driving force for album sales, have no interest in listening to an album in its entirety. And forget about the concept album! You’re lucky to get their attention for 30 seconds. Thankfully I write for my enjoyment first, but it sure would be sweet to have someone take a few to the next level.

  • Eric St John - September 30, 2021 reply

    Now do an article on how to break into the inner circle in a town with just a few venues and the chosen few who get to play them.

  • Fernando - September 30, 2021 reply

    Professional songwriting and vampires … Something in common? Maybe yes, maybe no? some will understand what I’m talking about. Wouldn’t you love to have a purpose to what you do? If you have a purpose, you have a complete operating system, and not just a firewall…..

  • Tony L. - October 1, 2021 reply

    Well said and thanks for putting these words down for us for us to read…..sometimes we all need a little reminder…..thanks !

  • Doug Kidder - October 1, 2021 reply

    #5 Reason – physical limitations, aging, body unable to perform (i.e., arthritis in the hands)

  • Bryant August - October 1, 2021 reply

    Great blog to share with musician friends. Knowing what makes others quit only drives us to do the opposite, be stronger, and keep going. 💪🏽

  • ebuka alpha - October 4, 2021 reply

    you’er totally right and thanks for the advice.

  • Explosure Mode - October 5, 2021 reply

    Bad contracts. Not making enough money on career.

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